Insect repellents generally fall into two categories, those based on synthetic chemicals such as DEET, and natural botanically-derived formulations such as Deter Insect Repellent®. Science is beginning to understand the biting behavior of insects, and what attracts/repels them. Most mosquito/insect repellents work at the molecular level by triggering an avoidance response or by blocking attraction triggers initiated by chemical receptors on the insect analogous to taste and smell. The receptors are located on the insects tongue and appendages. Some receptors react to a sense of “smell” creating the avoidance response when the insect first detects the repellent. Put simply, if an insect does not like what it smells, it won’t land. Other receptors act like a “taste” sense so that even if the insect lands it will not bite once it detects the repellent. In addition, research has shown that there are many different types of receptors (numbering in the hundreds) some trigger an avoidance response while others trigger an attraction response.

As more work has been done on the behavior of biting insects it has become clear that the key to an effective repellent is to design one that triggers as many “avoidance” receptors as possible while blocking or masking multiple “attraction” receptors. The greater the number of receptors a repellent is able to trigger/block the more effective it will be. Deter Insect Repellent® is specifically formulated to trigger a wide range of “avoidance” receptors while blocking the “attraction” receptors. These multiple activities greatly improve the effectiveness of a repellent against a wide range of insect species, referred to as broad spectrum activity. Using a repellent such as Deter Insect Repellent® that has a broad spectrum of activity can greatly increase effectiveness. The next challenge for an insect repellent to be effective is to control the volatile (readily evaporate) active ingredients. For an active ingredient to be effective it needs to be present not only on the skin surface, but also in the surrounding air. If the repellent is too volatile it will quickly evaporate from the skin greatly reducing the duration of activity, while too little volatility will result in not enough repellent getting into the surrounding air making it less effective. Volatility is controlled by ingredients called “binders” or “adjuvants”. These ingredients act to control the release of the repellent compounds so the duration of activity can increase while the overall repellent effectiveness is improved. These ingredients are so important they can double or even quadruple the duration of activity. Deter Insect repellent contains two binders/adjuvants which support the extended repellency.

Lastly, environmental factors must be taken into consideration when deciding how often to apply. These factors include temperature, humidity, insect activity, sweating, etc. Generally speaking more frequent application should be considered in hot humid weather, when sweating excessively or when insect activity is high. Application frequency can range from about an hour to well over 8 hours depending on conditions and the product being used. Insect repellents should always be applied according to label directions.